Attack on Ukrainian nuclear site ‘an affront to the world at large’

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the international community needed to ‘come down hard on Putin’ following the shelling.

04 March 2022

The shelling of a nuclear power station in south-eastern Ukraine is “an affront to the world at large”, a Cabinet minister has said.

Russian forces shelled the power station in the city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, with the attack continuing even as emergency services tried to put out the resulting fire.

Downing Street said the targeting of the nuclear plant could “directly threaten the safety of all of Europe”.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the offensive meant more than ever that the international community needs to “come down hard on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin”.

Mr Raab told Times Radio: “It is clearly reckless, irresponsible and not only the fact they were shooting, bombarding that particular site, but when the Ukrainian emergency authorities were trying to put out the fire, the shelling continued.

“It must stop.

“We support the Ukrainians in dealing with the security situation there but also I think come down hard on Vladimir Putin.”

He added: “It is an affront to the world at large.”

Boris Johnson has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council in light of the attack at Europe’s largest power station, and No 10 said he would directly raise the issue with the Kremlin after he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the early hours.

Mr Raab said it was “doubly reprehensible” that Russian forces had continued to shell the nuclear site after Ukrainian emergency services had looked to put a fire out at the site.

The Deputy Prime Minister told Sky News the Russians had inflicted a bombardment on a “very sensitive, precarious and dangerous facility” in Zaporizhzhia.

He said: “The fact that the Russians kept on bombarding after there was the fire and the Ukrainian emergency rescue team were trying to get to that makes it doubly reprehensible.”

Locates Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
(PA Graphics)

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the fire did not cause a change in the plant’s radiation level and nor had the shelling or fire caused any damage to “essential” equipment.

It comes ahead of crisis talks between Western ministers over the situation on Friday.

Liz Truss will join fellow foreign ministers from Nato and the European Union for a series of meetings in Brussels as the allies show their support for Ukraine.

Meanwhile Home Secretary Priti Patel is visiting Poland’s border with Ukraine to highlight the visas on offer to those fleeing the conflict who have relations in Britain.

For the first time since Brexit, Foreign Secretary Ms Truss will attend the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, as a special guest along with counterparts from the US, Canada and Ukraine.

She will also attend a special meeting of Nato foreign ministers and hold talks with counterparts from the G7 group.

But at home, the Government came under criticism for not acting before now.

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds told Sky News: “I certainly would say that we have been far too soft, especially over the last 10 years, on those funds that have come from Putin-linked oligarchs and business people.”

Russian invasion of Ukraine
(PA Graphics)

She rejected the Government’s claims that it has been working strongly against economic levers for Putin-linked individuals.

She said: “I have got to say that, for many, many years, Labour has been calling on the Conservatives to, for example, force transparency around property ownership, especially in London where we know that many of these Putin-linked oligarchs have been stashing their funds in property.”

But Mr Raab said the UK was “at the vanguard” of imposing sanctions on Kremlin-linked money.

“There has been a running commentary that the UK has somehow been slow – we’ve not been slow,” he said.

“We’ve been at the vanguard of taking action and, of course, what is really important is we act in concert with our allies, European, American and other Nato allies.

“For example, we have sanctioned more Russian banks than the EU, including Sberbank, which is the biggest Russian bank. We’ve made it clear and introduced measures so that three million Russian companies cannot raise loans or get listed on the UK stock market.

“These measures – and each country has slightly different sanctions regimes – are all aimed at tightening the noose, if you like, and starving off the finance that is going into Putin’s war machine.”

Russian advance on Kyiv
(PA Graphics)

He also said he was looking to change the law to prevent Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats from exploiting the British justice system to “silence” those investigating corruption linked to Mr Putin’s regime.

Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the economic sanctions were “starting to bite” but that Britain and its allies need to “bed in and have the strategic stamina for the long haul”.

He added: “I’ve said that we can expect that, after the stuttering start to this campaign, that Putin would resort to ever more barbaric measures as he gets frustrated.

“And that is the next phase that we all need to be alert to, whether it is the sanctions or the steeling of the capacity and the will of the Ukrainian defence.”

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